In the bowhunting world, this Ohio youngster might be one to watch.
By Ed Waite
Photo courtesy of Kirk Schulz
The Schulz family lives on a small farm close to Cincinnati, but they own about 80 acres in Brown County to the east. It was here that Kirk Schulz and his then 7-year-old son, James, began to hunt deer together.
James started with a shotgun before taking up a crossbow. In the summer of 2008, he got his first compound bow, a youth model. Working together, he and his dad learned all they could about bowhunting.
Lots of practice led them to the conclusion that James' bow was not powerful enough to hunt deer, so it was upgraded to one with a 43-pound draw weight. The bow fit him perfectly, and he was soon Swiss-cheesing deer targets.
Even so, he agreed to refrain from taking a shot at a real deer beyond 25 yards.
Accordingly, James worked hard at judging distances, using a rangefinder to verify his guesses.
Prior to and during the 2009 archery season, father and son frequently traveled to their property to set and move trail cameras and to retrieve photos so they could evaluate the deer passing through the area.
Eventually, they decided on trees beside travel corridors, and the hunting began. Both Kirk and James used climbing stands.
On Friday evening, Nov. 13, the pair traveled to the farm and set up camp for the night. They would hunt hard the entire weekend as the rut was in full swing in southern Ohio. Saturday morning, they entered the woods early and hung their stands about 200 yards apart.
Hunting from dawn to dusk, however, they saw only small bucks under their stands.
"The bucks were chasing the does for sure," James said. "But every time I saw deer, they were down lower, close to a dry creek bed and way too far away to shoot. We had chosen to sit near the top of the hill."
At camp that night, they decided to move to the bottom to see if that improved their chances.
Sunday morning turned out to be a beautiful day to sit in the woods - sunny and warming to almost 45 degrees. They decided to wait until daylight to get into the woods because they would have to find new trees to climb.
About 7:30, they drove near the top of the hill, unloaded their climbers and gear and headed into the bottom. The trek was arduous and time-consuming, but after traveling about 400 yards, James found a spot he liked. Kirk continued for another 200 yards and found his own tree. It was 8:30 by the time they were aloft.
"After I got set up, I saw that there was a dead buck lying nearby along the creek bank. It was a 10-pointer, but it was nothing more than a skeleton," James said.
After about 45 minutes, James spotted a doe on the ridge angling toward him.
"I was going to shoot her as soon as she got close enough," the boy said. "I had ranged everything around me so I would know when to take the shot.
"The doe passed about 30 yards from me, so I didn't shoot. She walked along the creek bed to my right until she was out about 100 yards where she stopped and started staring at something back my way," he continued. "Then I heard leaves crunching and slowly turned to my left.
About 40 yards up the hill was this really big-racked buck. It had its nose to the ground and was following the same trail the doe had just taken.
"I was afraid that it would stay right on her trail and not get close enough for me to take the shot," James added.
As the buck cut the distance, James got more tense. The anticipation was starting to get to him. The buck was huge and still too far away for a shot. James ranged what he figured would be the closest point: 27 yards.
"I realized I would probably never get a shot at another buck that size, so I decided to take the shot if it reached that spot. Lucky for me, it changed directions just a little bit and came right to the spot I had ranged. I aimed about an inch higher than at 25 yards and hit the release.
"I thought I missed because I heard the arrow hit the leaves. The buck ran about 10 yards and stopped. It looked around like it was confused, looked toward me, and then kind of hunched up its back. It started downhill and then tripped itself up several times.
"It tried to run, but its antlers were tangled in some hanging vines, which caused it to stop and fall. I saw it take its last breath just 37 yards away from me," James said.
"After I was sure it was dead, I got down the tree and ran over to the deer. I nudged it in the stomach, and it didn't flinch. The arrow had entered just behind the shoulder and passed through both lungs.
"I was so excited that I just sat on top of the buck and started counting all the points, over and over again. I counted 18," James said. "Then I got up and started to run to my dad, who was about 200 yards away. I didn't run very far before I felt like I was getting sick from all the excitement, so I stopped to rest and calm down a bit.
"When I finally reached my dad, I told him I had shot a very big buck. He had seen what looked like a 12-pointer heading in my direction 25 minutes earlier and asked if it was a big 12. I said 'No, it's bigger ... an 18-point buck, Dad!'
"Dad got down from his tree, and I took him over to where my deer was lying. On the way, we stopped to see if we could find my arrow, but there were just too many leaves. The arrow must have been under them somewhere. Then we went over to my deer.
"Dad was amazed at the size of the deer and the antlers. He congratulated me, and then he pulled out his camera to take lots of pictures," James said.
The two dragged the deer to a clearing and did the field-dressing, but were unable to move it back uphill to the SUV. They called a friend, Ryan Thomas, for help. When Ryan arrived, he also was stunned at the size of the deer and its antlers - a buck that had somehow managed not to be photographed by trail cameras.
The three finally got the deer to the SUV, strapping it onto one of those carriers that attach to a trailer hitch and extend behind the vehicle. Next stop was the check station in Georgetown (Grandma and Grandpa's Carryout on Rt. 68).
Dozens of people stopped to take photos and comment on the deer.
Done there, James and his father decided it was time for lunch. As they entered the burger joint's drive-through lane, it once again created a stir. Before long, the line was stalled as people were exiting their cars and taking photos with their cell phones and sending them off to friends and family.
"All the way home, cars would go by and wave or honk their horns. It was an awesome day," James said.
"It was probably the most exciting time of either of our lives!" Kirk agreed.
• Hunter: James Schulz
• Official Score: 192
• Composite: 212 7/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.